Berkeley County Historical Society

Berkeley County Historical Society Preserving the history of Berkeley County, WV.

The Berkeley County Historical Society began in the late 1920’s. Citizens, interested in preserving the diverse history of the county joined to do their best to keep their families, friends and neighbors mindful of where they all came from and how the area came to have such a rich and diverse background. When the Great Depression struck, through the hardships of World War II, the society fell inactive. The cause was taken up again in the 1950’s being organized into a formal Society in 1963. The Society has met regularly since that time.

In the Department of Defense Military Room of the Berkeley County Museum at the Belle Boyd House, there is a plain ladde...

In the Department of Defense Military Room of the Berkeley County Museum at the Belle Boyd House, there is a plain ladder back rocking chair which has an unusual and mysterious history. Whether the story is true or only family lore, it illustrates the passions and dangers experienced during the Civil War in Berkeley County.
The rocking chair belonged to Dr. Francis “Frank” Davis (1833-1903) of Bedington. On the left side of the chair back there is a wide groove, said to have been made by a sniper’s bullet.
There are two stories of how this occurred. One story says Dr. Davis was sitting in his chair when a cavalryman shot at him for aiding the enemy. The story doesn’t say who the “enemy” was, or the date of the incident.
Another story says that during the war, while Dr. Davis was sitting in a rocking chair, an irate citizen shot through the window, the bullet passing through the chair back and lodging in the fireplace. The citizen mistook Dr. Davis for his brother, who was against the war.
Dr. Frank Davis was from Washington County, MD. He and his wife moved in 1858 to a 119-acre farm in Hainesville (now Bedington). Davis was a typical country doctor who was highly respected in the community. According to the Martinsburg Statesman Democrat newspaper, he helped everyone, rich or poor, and went out day or night, in any weather to care for his patients.
The story regarding his brother is elusive. By 1860 Davis had only two living brothers. Josiah Ellsworth Davis and Theodore Hamilton Davis. Both are listed in the 1860 census as living with their mother in Washington County, MD. Both of them could have visited to their brother’s farm. Western Marylanders would more likely have been union supporters and they may have been at risk if their views were known in Virginia. Berkeley County voted against secession and had plenty of proponents of both sides.
Both stories are very possible, during the Civil War. Without hearing directly from Dr. Davis himself, we are left to ponder the mysterious story behind the plain ladder back rocking chair on display in the Belle Boyd House.


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The Martinsburg Journal of January 4, 1940, near the end of the Great Depression, announced that the Martinsburg Housing...

The Martinsburg Journal of January 4, 1940, near the end of the Great Depression, announced that the Martinsburg Housing Authority had secured options through the United States Housing Authority to build one hundred low-cost housing units. The two properties where they would be built were the Norbourne Cemetery property on Wilson Street between Virginia and West Virginia Avenues, and what was known as the Sites Pear Orchard, east of and near the southern end of Porter Avenue.
The two sites would contain fifteen buildings, five each of three types of buildings, called “B”, “C”, and “D”. The “B” buildings contain three 4 ½-room and three 5 ½-room units. The “C” buildings contain four 4 ½-room and four 3-room units and the “D” buildings contain two 4 ½-room and four 3-room units. A total of one hundred housing units would be constructed, at an estimated cost of $300,000 with an additional $135,000 available if needed.
The Wilson Street site would include four “B” and four “D” type units and the Porter Avenue site included one “D”, one “B” and five “C” type units. The Wilson Street site had space for two additional “D” type units should they be necessary.
The buildings were constructed of brick veneer with peaked roofs. Concrete foundations with interior pine floors and insulated ceilings and roofs were planned with extensive play areas and lawns included.
It was expected that, by May, 1940, plans for distribution to contractors for submission of construction bids, would be complete, with construction beginning in June. The one variable was the provision of sewer facilities for the sites. The Martinsburg Housing Authority’s object was to provide the units at a rental price of $12 - $18 per month for families with income between $200 and $899 per year.
The project would help eliminate slum areas in Martinsburg and provide safe and sanitary dwellings that would improve the health and character of low-income citizens. Members of the Martinsburg Housing Authority at the time were Clarence E. Martin, Sr. (chairman), H.P. Thorn, A. McDaniel and Wilbur H. Thomas.
This project allowed for the elimination of one hundred sub-standard houses found unsafe in a 1938 survey. Extension of sewer lines, correction of “nuisances”, installation of sanitary facilities and outright condemnation was the fate of the sub-standard houses.

838 East Moler Avenue in Martinsburg was once a dumping spot considered to be an eyesore.  In May of 1939, the Martinsbu...

838 East Moler Avenue in Martinsburg was once a dumping spot considered to be an eyesore. In May of 1939, the Martinsburg Journal featured an article about the new business located there and the building constructed to house that business.
It was a white and black-faced structure erected by James S. Dailey and C.W. Spiker to house Dailey-Spiker Motor Sales. The one-story building had large lettering across the top with the firm’s name and the motor vehicles they handled.
The Journal went into great detail to describe the property. Gas tanks in front of the building were placed so they were visible, but did not detract from the building. The driveway was large enough to handle four lanes of traffic while accommodating customers with plenty of parking space.
Glass in the front of the building allowed easy visibility of the shiny new GMC trucks, Cadillac, La Salle and Pontiac cars in the showroom. However, Dailey-Spiker Motors did more than just sell new and used cars. They were a full-service shop, selling such items as tires, radios, heaters, spotlights, fog lights, steering wheels, and every type of accessory known to automobile owners.
There were two front entrances to the building, one led to the business office and the other to the showroom. The building, in 1939, was described as being very futuristic in appearance. The Journal described it as, “similar to those on display at the New York World’s Fair.”
The repair shop was the finest in the area, with every type of machine needed for the renovation of any type of automobile. James S. Dailey said, at the time, of his new facility, “I feel that not only have I erected a building of which I can justly be proud, but at the same time have eliminated an eyesore which residents of this section of Martinsburg deplored for a number of years.”
Today, this building is, of course, Opequon Motors. It has been renovated and modernized nicely over the years and still represents an attractive business location in Martinsburg. It has come far from the dumping spot it used to be.

By request, a repost from 2017 - Colonial forts.

By request, a repost from 2017 - Colonial forts.

In the early-to-mid 1700’s, in what would become Berkeley County, there was still the possibility of Indian attack. This weighed upon the minds of the settlers there and having a safe place to go in the event of an attack was a priority. This, in combination with the French and Indian War of 1754 – 1763, created the necessity of a chain of forts along the frontier.

There were eleven known forts located in Berkeley County. The first to be built in Berkeley County was Fort Maidstone on the Potomac River at Watkins Ferry. This had been a major Indian crossing from time immemorial, and a major crossing for settlers traveling South. Maidstone was the only formal military fort located here.

The other forts were referred to as “country forts.” They were primarily dwellings which were converted into stockade forts by surrounding the dwellings, and sometimes other buildings, with a palisade of logs, set upright about four feet into the ground and standing ten feet or more above with a gate of heavy wood. Local inhabitants would gather here in times of danger

The known “country forts” in Berkeley County were Baldwin’s Fort, northeast of Gerrardstown; Bell’s Fort, below Mills Gap near Gerrardstown; Cunningham’s Fort in Bunker Hill; Evans’ Fort, south of Martinsburg; Hedges’ Fort, east of Hedgesville; Mendenhall’s Fort in Martinsburg; Neally’s Fort, on the east bank of Opequon Creek northeast of Martinsburg; Newkirk’s Fort, in Little Georgetown; Patterson’s Fort, west of Evans’ Fort; and Small’s Fort, west of Mills Gap on the Elk Branch of Back Creek.

If you are interested in finding out more about the frontier forts of Berkeley County and the surrounding area, you can purchase Berkeley Journal Issue 25, “Frontier Forts of Berkeley County” through BCHS’ website at

During Colonial times, voluntary military service and training was required of nearly all of Berkeley County’s male citi...

During Colonial times, voluntary military service and training was required of nearly all of Berkeley County’s male citizens between the ages of sixteen and sixty. War time muster rolls document that Berkeley sent her quota of men.
From the Martinsburgh Gazette in 1802, members of Captain Magnus Tate’s Troop of Cavalry were ordered to report to Martinsburg on June 4. In 1808, the Martinsburg Independent Blues were requested to be in attendance for training at their “usual place of parade.” In 1847, this same company was ordered to parade in front of “Martinsburg House” in full summer uniforms with arms and accoutrements in complete order.
Soldiers from Berkeley County were part of the 67th Infantry Regiment, 16th Brigade, 3rd Division, Virginia Militia. Formed during the 1700s, it existed until the Civil War. There was a first and second battalion of eight and seven companies. It was controlled by two courts and a board of officers.
The officers were sworn in at a yearly Court of Enquiry. The First Battalion Court of Enquiry was at one of the following locations: “at the house of Robert Snodgrass, Esq. at Back Creek; at the tavern of Elizabeth Marlatt; at Jacob Myer’s tavern on Hoke’s Run; at the tavern of Joseph Ray and at Hedgesville.” The Second Battalion’s Court of Enquiry was held at the house of Robert Boak in Darkesville.
The Regimental Court of Enquiry was held about two weeks after the Battalion Courts of Enquiry at the Globe Tavern in Martinsburg. The Globe Tavern was located on the south side of West King Street between the Public Library and College Street. This court decided the boundaries of the land areas for each of the battalions, and, when necessary, combined smaller companies into larger ones.
During the American Revolution, the role of the militia became important as a new nation struggled to recruit, train and retain a standing army to protect itself from what was considered the best army in the world. George Washington knew this, and for this reason made all enlistments “for the duration of the war” by 1777, and ten years later, the arming of citizens for a “well-regulated militia” was included in the U.S. Constitution.
This was nation building, and a nation, particularly a new one, must be able to defend itself against mutual enemies. In colonial and “young” America, the militia was serious business.

No matter what you celebrate, the Berkeley County Historical Society wishes all of you the very best this holiday season...

No matter what you celebrate, the Berkeley County Historical Society wishes all of you the very best this holiday season. Currently our museum features a collection of lovely Christmas cards. Below is post card (not in the collection) sent in 1912. May the memories of history warm us this time of year as we look ahead to 2020.

The post office at Bunker Hill was established as Mill Creek Post Office on November 20, 1828.  The name of the post off...

The post office at Bunker Hill was established as Mill Creek Post Office on November 20, 1828. The name of the post office was changed to Bunker Hill on October 23, 1879. No one knows exactly why the change took place. It has been speculated that some of the soldiers of the Revolution who lived in the area fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill, Massachusetts on June 17, 1775, and they were responsible for the naming of the village and post office. This has not been documented however.
The first postmaster was Benjamin W. Jefferson, who was appointed to the position on November 20, 1828. Among those who served as postmaster here was Benjamin R. Boyd (father of Belle Boyd), who was appointed May 16, 1845.
Two rural mail routes were established at Bunker Hill in 1903, they were designated as Rural Routes 13 and 14. They were re-numbered to Route 1 and 2 in 1916. Charles Fenton Laise was the carrier on Route 1. He used a horse and buggy and later a Ford Model T. One of his substitutes was his brother, William, who, one day while driving a horse and buggy delivering mail, had a cerebral hemorrhage and died near Rest Church. Rural Route 2’s carrier was David Brown Gageby, until the two routes were combined in October of 1927.
The post office had been located at various places in the village. At one time it was in a house on the Valley Pike (Route 11) that was a stagecoach stop. At this time, the mail for Gerrardstown was also left here and taken to Gerrardstown by horseback on a towpath along Mill Creek.
Other post office locations were the old Bunker Hill Market (aka Clendenning’s store) and Millard Custer’s garage – it seems that whenever a new postmaster was appointed, the post office was moved, until Truman McCauley moved it to a small building west of the old Bunker Hill Market on Giles Mill Road. This building was built to be a tailor shop in the 1800s. It was located here until the present site was opened in 1989.
We’d like to take this opportunity to recognize two contributors to BCHS who we lost this year. Without them we’d certainly not have the information and photographs to provide you, our followers, with the stories we hope you enjoy. Susan Greenwalt, long time local contributor, who we lost in September, and Bill Dodd, whose photographs grace many of these stories, who we lost just a few weeks ago.

Dr. Theodore Kensell Oates was the founder of City Hospital in Martinsburg.  City Hospital, of course, would go on to be...

Dr. Theodore Kensell Oates was the founder of City Hospital in Martinsburg. City Hospital, of course, would go on to become the Berkeley Medical Center, but this article will focus on Dr. T.K. Oates.
He was born May 17, 1869 in Hampshire County, WV. He was educated in public schools and attended Shenandoah Normal College and graduated from the University of Maryland in 1896. He studied surgery at the New York Post-Graduate Medical School and had his practical surgery experience at Polyclinic Hospital in New York.
His practice began in a small office at Capon Bridge, WV, along U.S. Route 50. In 1904, he came to Martinsburg to practice surgery and general medicine.
That same year, Dr. Oates purchased property at the corner of Burke Street and Maple Avenue. The original building, with twelve rooms and three stories high, was constructed of concrete blocks manufactured locally. The building was expanded in 1909 and again in 1926.
On November 12, 1948, Dr. Oates presented City Hospital with twenty-four cancelled notes valued at approximately $35,000, representing all the outstanding debt of the hospital. The presentation was made to Dr. W.E. Minghini, president of the hospital board.
In acceptance of the cancelled notes, Dr. Minghini praised Dr. Oates’ long and exceptional service to the hospital and the community. He mentioned that Oates had performed over 26,000 operations, among them the first appendectomy in the Eastern Panhandle, and had visited many thousands of sick patients, often without thought of pay save the satisfaction of having rendered care to a person in need. Dr. Minghini called him “a great surgeon; a great citizen; an upbuilder of the city; a large employer of its labor; a healer of its sick, and a generous donor to its municipality.”
Tribute is paid to Dr. Oates inside the hospital today, and that tribute includes a bronze bust of Dr. Oates, unveiled by his grandson on May 4, 1952. His work was not limited to medicine. He gave Oatesdale Park to the community for recreational use, and he gave City Hospital to the community and provided room for it to grow – and grow it did, and that growth continues today, nearly 120 years after its founding. Dr. T.K. Oates left a lasting legacy to the people of Berkeley County.

In 1968, Royce Hosiery came to Martinsburg from Philadelphia and became a part of the community.  Originally, Royce was ...

In 1968, Royce Hosiery came to Martinsburg from Philadelphia and became a part of the community. Originally, Royce was located at 638 North Queen Street and then moved to Baltimore Street I 1971.

Stories vary about working at Royce – some found the work hot, itchy and scratchy, but others found the work fine. One person reported working there as her last job as a temp before retiring – she joked that she only lasted a day because her supervisors figured out that she was colorblind! Another person remembered working there during 9/11, making her job at Royce a significant touchstone in her memory as an American. Not long after, in 2004, the Royce building closed. The building is currently being used to store local records.

While Royce’s headquarters are in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, it still operates its distribution center here in Martinsburg at Auto Parts Place. Its sock sale, which is happening today, has become an annual tradition for many in Berkeley County.

We hope that people will share their memories of Royce in the comments. Below is a close-up of a vintage Royce tag, a picture of the former Royce property, and pictures of 2 mystery Royce employees from the February 12, 1983 edition of The Weekend Journal.


126 E Race St
Martinsburg, WV

General information

BCHS Archives and Research Center is open by appointment only (Thursday and Friday). To make an appointment, please give two weeks advance notice. Appointments can be made at 304-267-4713 and by email at [email protected]


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